Reverse engineering nature

Posted on May 08, 2015

Researchers in a new Queen’s-based lab are studying how animals move through water and air in the hopes of improving hydro- and aerodynamic design of industrial technologies, such as wind turbines.

The Optical Towing Tank for Energetics Research (OTTER) will be used to perform high-speed laser measurements of the flow around moving objects. These measurements can have industry applications in areas such as aerospace, defence and renewable technologies. No real animals are studied in the tank, but abstractions of them are created, such as a simplified wing geometry, to determine how animals who are natural swimmers and flyers move.

“The OTTER Lab will be used for a large range of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics research and helps put Queen’s ahead in terms of the development of future technology surrounding defence, alternative energy and aerospace systems,” says David Rival, OTTER lab supervisor and a professor in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. “Since natural systems have evolved much more elegant ways to deal with unsteady flows, much effort goes into reverse engineering nature.”

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OTTER Lab  otter lab